On Tuesday, December 21, the FCC will vote on a proposal that will allow internet providers to better manage bandwidth by charging more to those users who use more and less to those who don’t. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Apparently, it’s not.
I spent an hour this morning reading over a variety of articles on the subject from the factual pieces from Reuters to the techie take at Crunch Gear to the twists and turns of The Washington Post. My favorite piece was written by Al Franken for The Huffington Post. Yes, SNL’s Al Franken who is now a Senator from Minnesota.
Franken explains the concept of net neutrality as leveling the playing field. Where small business has the same access to the internet as a large corporation. “A blogger should have the same ability to find an audience as a media conglomerate.” Which sounds extremely fair but what if my neighbor likes to download a movie every hour of the day while I only use my internet to access email and Facebook a couple of times a day. Is it fair that we’re both paying the same amount per month for access?
People against the upcoming vote, say that allowing internet providers to regulate cost based on usage is giving them too much control. Suppose we take this scenario over to the TV. My neighbor and I both pay the same amount for the same service. If he chooses not to watch what he’s paid for, that’s not my problem. Under this new ruling (if it applied to TV), the cable company could choose to charge per show watched. If I have to pay, I may think twice about watching the premiere of David Hasselhoff’s new series and that’s going to make studios even more leery about investing in new and different shows (Sushi Wars!). No more money for the creative process, innovation goes out the window and now we’re living in a country where the government is inadvertently controlling what we watch on TV.
Just to be clear, tomorrow’s vote doesn’t involve television. It only involves your cable company if they’re also an internet provider and it has ramifications for cell phone wireless providers, too. I only use the TV metaphor because I like TV and I understand everything better when Law & Order is in the mix. If, in turn, all I have done is confuse you, then welcome to my morning.
People all over the internet are claiming that tomorrow’s FCC vote is a slap in the face to free speech, that it will put a stranglehold on the advancement of the internet and will lead to a system where only the privileged will have access. Kinda dramatic.
The big question here is whether you see the internet as a right or a privileged. Is the internet akin to electricity and phone service, or is it more like cable TV? What everyone does agree on is that the current language isn’t clear enough so even if the FCC goes forward with the new regulations there are plenty of loop holes to be legally challenged and explored.
Do you have an opinion about net neutrality? We’d love to hear it.